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Scotland announces plans for new independence referendum

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The terms and date for a second Scottish independence referendum will be set before the local elections in May.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised as much on Tuesday despite London’s refusal to organise such a vote.

“Any unilateral preparations for an independence referendum are largely symbolic because the UK government maintains that Westminster’s approval would be needed for such a vote,” the Financial Times pointed out.

Nevertheless, in a speech on Tuesday, Sturgeon insisted that “before the end of this Parliament, we will publish a draft bill, setting out the proposed terms and timing of an independence referendum, as well as the proposed question that people will be asked in that referendum.”

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In a referendum on independence in 2014, 55% of Scots voted to stay within the UK. Sturgeon believes that Brexit has since changed the situation, with Scotland voting in 2016 against the exit from the European Union, which came into effect at the end of January.

Demands for an independent Scotland are also coming back strongly after the UK and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s much criticised handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has cost the lives of over 41,000 citizens, with 337,168 confirmed cases.

Alongside the criticism Johnson faces, there are “perceptions” that Sturgeon handled the crisis better than Johnson did, according to the Financial Times.

The challenges posed by the epidemic are being compounded “completely unnecessarily” by London’s refusal to extend post-Brexit transition period, which “will cause avoidable harm to many Scottish businesses,” according to Sturgeon, who called the refusal “an act of self-sabotage.”

While analysts predict that Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party will win a large majority in the 2021 regional parliamentary elections, the Prime Minister’s economic record could be an obstacle to the adoption of independence in the event of a new referendum.

According to figures published last week, Scotland spent a surplus of £15.1 billion (€17 billion) on what it collected in taxes over the last financial year, according to the SNP. The region’s deficit has also worsened by £2 billion (€2.2 billion) over the past 12 months.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times

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